The Current State of the Dodgers Starting Rotation

(Mandatory Credit: Jayne Kamin-Oncea/USA TODAY Sports)

At this particular juncture of the 2017 campaign, it’s a bit difficult to provide a general outlook regarding the starting rotation of the Dodgers, mainly because of its present instability. Yet, although the pitching hasn’t been the sole culprit of the club’s first four-game losing streak since May of 2016, it has indeed been ugly as of late, especially in the current series against the Diamondbacks at Chase Field.

During their last 10 games, the Dodgers have lost six — the first time since April that they’ve had a losing record during any 10-game stretch this year. And it also dates back to April since they have lost two consecutive series, a streak which came to an end after Arizona won on both Tuesday and Wednesday.

Some of the most dedicated fans of the Dodgers have been pulling out their hair during this current stretch, blaming the starting pitching, the bullpen, injuries, the lineups, and even the lack of team chemistry — whatever that may entail. But the truth of the matter is that the Dodgers have run into some very good opposing pitching lately, in addition to a few good teams who are in the middle of fighting for spots in the 2017 postseason.

“I don’t think it’s a coincidence,” manager Dave Roberts said after Wednesday’s loss. “This time of year, there’s teams that are going in two different directions. These last two teams, the Diamondbacks and the Brewers, are playing for a lot right now and you see the energy, the intent. Even with that, they have to have good pitching and they’re getting it.”

Regardless of the opposition, though, the last two games have been a nightmare from the perspective of the starting rotation. Coming off perhaps the finest outing of his career against the Pirates last Wednesday, Rich Hill was unable to survive four innings in the opener vs. the Diamondbacks, having surrendered six earned runs on eight hits and a walk. In the middle game of the series, also carrying momentum from his last outing in Pittsburgh, Hyun-Jin Ryu was borderline useless after giving up six earned runs on eight hits of his own, including three long balls.

Credit needs to be given to the D-Backs for devising a successful plan of attack against the Dodgers’ starting pitchers; however, it wasn’t hard to see that both the southpaws were missing their desired locations terribly, often leaving the fastball right down the absolute center of the plate.

The good news is that the entire scope of the rotation will change this weekend at San Diego when both Clayton Kershaw and Alex Wood are expected to be activated off the disabled list and rejoin the rotation. Considering the new formation, the weakest piece may be young righty Brock Stewart, who will get another spot-start in Saturday’s early contest. Not that Stewart doesn’t have the skills to succeed, but analysis from recent outings suggests that he could be more effective as an arm out of the bullpen. Nevertheless, the presence of Stewart is required because of the necessity of the doubleheader. Looking around the farm, about the only other option is hard-throwing right-hander Wilmer Font, who we’ve been discussing quite frequently as of late, but somehow still isn’t on the team’s 40-man roster.

Nonetheless, Kersh will start on Friday, followed by Stewart in the early matchup on Saturday and Yu Darvish in the second leg of the doubleheader. Wood will start the finale on Sunday afternoon.

Veteran righty Brandon McCarthy continues to rehab, and hopes to log a few big league starts after rosters expand in September. It’s extremely unlikely that McCarthy figures into the prospective postseason mix, although there may be a remote chance that he could compete for a bullpen role.

As it stands now, so long as all the arms are 110% healthy, a potential playoff rotation could lineup with Kersh taking the ball first, followed by Darvish, then either Wood or Hill in Game 3 and Game 4, if a fourth game would be needed. And, again, based on the assumption that the entire crew is injury-free, Ryu and righty Kenta Maeda may be among the many arms competing for spots in the postseason bullpen.

So, in the end, the future does look a bit brighter, considering the squad’s most recent stretch of brief misfortune. With the media’s daily ramblings (we’re guilty of it here, too) about how this year’s Dodgers were destined to shatter many of baseball’s historical team records, maybe the expectations of a makeshift rotation have been overblown and perceived in an unrealistic context as of late.

Ultimately, a four-game losing streak isn’t the end of the world, especially when there are two standout lefty arms in CK and Wood ready to rally the troops.




8 thoughts on “The Current State of the Dodgers Starting Rotation

  1. I think that what we have here is a combination of your very valid point that these games mean far more to the Brewers and Dbacks than they do to the Dodgers along with some reversion to the mean. This is a very very good team, but……….. it is not worthy of having the most wins ever and that’s the pace it was on.
    In my mind Wood could go either way between now and the end of the year. He might resume being the junior ace he was previously but this injury he has now had twice this year could stop him in his tracks. Our starting rotation will probably be in a constant state of flux between now and the playoffs. They won’t know what they have until October. In the meanwhile, if reversion to the mean is a valid theory, Brock Stewart may pitch the best game of the Padre series.

    1. I think Stewart’s start will probably be more of a bullpen game, but like you said, I’ll probably be wrong in that assumption. By then, though, we’ll see the beginning of the expanded roster. I assume we’ll definitely see Buehler, but I really hope they do some maneuvering so we can have a look at Font, or maybe even Broussard or Younginer. Should be interesting to see how the 40-man looks come Friday.

      1. I think that after the year he’s had, they absolutely have to take a look at Font. They need to determine if they want to keep him around because I imagine he would be a free agent after the season and it would be a shame to just lose him without knowing what they have in him. If you keep mentioning Broussard’s name here, the Baseball Gods will hear you and he will be brought to Chavez Ravine. Do you know what the OKC playoff picture is like? If they are playoff bound, we may not see some of those guys until after their playoffs.

      2. If I were Joc, I’d be very concerned right about now. Verdugo coming, Joc still in OKC and apparently Joc is now considered a left fielder. We already have about 12 of those.

      3. If nothing else, they could let him pitch the first inning in all games against the Dbacks. Couldn’t do too much worse than our starters in this series. Meanwhile, they’ve announced that Seager won’t start again for at least another week (until after the Dback series in LA). Hopefully that doesn’t turn into something bad.

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